Q. My neighbour has a huge garden and brought me over a basket of zucchini. I don’t want them to go bad, but there are too many for me to eat at once. Can you freeze zucchini?
A. Absolutely! Zucchini freezes really well, but it needs a little bit of preparation to ensure best results. Without preparing the zucchini, they will become mushy and bland, and won’t taste good in recipes. Fortunately, preparing zucchini to freeze is a simple and relatively quick process that’s well worth the extra effort to have bright, tasty zucchini all year long.
To prepare zucchini for freezing, they should be blanched first. To blanch zucchini, first wash the zucchini and cut it into the size and shape pieces you want. The most common way to slice it is in cubes or rounds. If you plan to add zucchini to baked goods such as zucchini muffins or zucchini bread, consider grating the zucchini. Then the zucchini needs to be blanched in order to kill any bacteria, and to slow the decomposing process so that zucchini freezes well.
To blanch zucchini, bring a large pot of water to boil. When water is boiling, add cut zucchini to the water in small batches. Allow the zucchini to boil to 2-3 minutes, and then remove with a slotted spoon. Place the cooked zucchini in a large bowl of ice water until cool. Consider replacing the ice water between batches is the water gets too warm.
Drain zucchini in a colander to remove most of the water. Then transfer the zucchini to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Cover the top with additional paper towels and pat dry to remove as much water as possible. To avoid clumping while freezing, place the zucchini in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in the freezer for about 20 minutes, until zucchini is slightly hardened.
Remove tray from freezer, and place zucchini into freezer bags. Lay bags on their side so that zucchini is in a single layer. Squeeze out air from bags and seal tightly, then layer in the freezer. Label and date bags for reference. Frozen zucchini should be used within one year of freezing.
To use frozen zucchini, remove bag from the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator for several hours, until thawed completely. Zucchini can also be thawed in their bags under cold running water. For use in soups or stews, frozen zucchini can be added directly to the recipe. Previously frozen zucchini will not be as firm as fresh zucchini, so it is best used in recipes that are cooked completely, and not for use in dishes such as salads that require fresh zucchini.